An octagonal blue plastic stop sign bisected with a plastic hourglass. The top half says, in white letters, STOP IN TIME. The bottom half has the Region of Waterloo crest.

Stop: Shower Time!

This water timer on my shower wall was given to me by a friendly young volunteer at the Waterloo Region Water Conservation tent at my local farmer’s market this past summer. It’s a simple blue octagon bisected with a small hourglass; the top reads STOP IN TIME in white block letters, and the bottom features the Region’s brand image. It came with a rubber suction cup so I could stick it to the wall of my shower, able to view it easily when showering.

I thought it would be a good idea – and it is. It’s a great idea, actually. I assume that whoever developed this little timer thingy measured how much water goes down the drain from the showerhead in roughly 4.5 minutes, the amount of time precisely that the hourglass measures and, in order to curb excessive water use, the Region hands these out free to citizens.

It’s very nifty: it saves the environment and on my water bill, and I take very brief showers as it is. What’s not to like?

An octagonal blue plastic stop sign bisected with a plastic hourglass. The top half says, in white letters, STOP IN TIME. The bottom half has the Region of Waterloo crest.
It mocks me.

My showers, it turns out, are not that brief. I experimented with different shower routines – not conditioning, not exfoliating, not shaving – there was a lot of cutting out of actions that in hindsight, are some of the few things that I do in the shower. That, plus the fact that I need to run the shower for a good minute – sometimes two – in order to get the water to the right temperature before even getting in. It’s not very efficient, at all.

Every time, I am filled with longing for the shower in an AirBnB that I stayed in during a conference in Glasgow in 2018. The shower had a machine where one entered the exact water temperature that one wanted, and when the water was turned on, it would come out at that temperature with little variance. It was divine. This AirBnB, by the way, was a flat in a three-story walkup in the middle of Glasgow, not a fancy hotel or obviously expensive house. A quick Google search returns no results worth bothering with, as none of them look like what I remember experiencing, and none of them are forthcoming about not having to run the shower until it achieves the temperature one desires. You can get four jets and WiFi, though, apparently.

Another AirBnB that I stayed in for a conference in Davis, California in 2019, was a bit more low-tech but impressive in its dedication to water saving – the shower was a typical tub situation, and the host would use a large bucket under the tub faucet to collect the unused water from the tap while the water temperature adjusted, and use that water to flush her toilet with.

I recently watched Brave Blue World on Netflix and one of the technologies they featured was the Dutch startup Hydraloop, which develops a system for grey water recycling in apartments and homes, so that water is used twice. It is super neat and definitely something I’d like to look into in the future.

It doesn’t solve my issue in the present, however. I can comfortably shower in about a 1.5 rotation of the shower timer – give or take – and I think that will have to be enough for me for now.

PSA: Literally it measures five minutes (the Region suggests limiting shower time to 4-8 mins); if you’re interested in something like this, don’t buy the expensive version online. You can set your phone timer or kitchen timer, even.

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